THE HALFTIME REPORT: 2017 IN REVIEW SO FAR
STILL PRO- CESSING...
My first experience with this album was watching the newly unveiled music video for "HUMBLE." in the dead of night while I was drunk as a fish. Needless to say, I was dazzled, even hypnotized. The final product that is DAMN. on a whole is similar: messy, somewhat obtuse, but still entirely captivating even if it's not the most polished or obviously conceptual Kendrick album of the bunch. From mad crockpot reddit theories about double albums to excitedly playing "FEAR." in reverse to hopefully reveal some new prophecies, the project carries a distinct burden. But this weight is just testament to the album’s lasting significance and substance. It can at least be appreciated for the layers of questions left behind after each listen, or maybe also appreciated as an honest attempt at decoding the most complex personal and political issues that haunt Duckworth himself. DAMN. is a cavernous, nightmarish exploration of hip hop and politics, and still a formidable addition to one of the best, most consistent discographies modern music has ever seen.
Humanz is a tough pill to swallow. Which isn't to say it's a bad album by any stretch of the imagination; it's quite good. "Saturnz Barz" and "Ascension" will likely be among the best songs of the year, among others. But to evaluate Humanz as a whole is largely uncomfortable: the album is too long, too quiet at some points, too loud (or just horribly mixed) at others, and not nearly as consistent as other albums from recent memory that had a massive amount of hype behind them. Blonde and Wildflower immediately come to mind as projects that exceeded expectations despite even more time and pressure against them. Humanz instead falls short--or maybe it does too much. Or maybe it's a matter of misusing the amazing roster of vocal talents who came along this time around. Danny Brown and Benjamin Clementine are among those who were criminally underused. In any case, this won't do too much damage to Damon Albarn or Gorillaz as a whole, who I'm sure will have an amazing world tour through to the end of the year. But in earnest, we don't have a Plastic Beach on our hands, and we certainly don't have a Demon Days neither.
Truly fresh, inspired and detailed hip hop from front to back. SATURATION is a project that really shows how a hip hop group can be impactful without always having to be loud. This project parades it all: an amazing amount of craft in the beat switches, inventive song structures, and wide range of vocal performances (singing, crooning, talking, shouting) and emotional registers (heartbreak, fear, ambition, bravado). And beyond all that, there's always a hook. "GOLD,” “FAKE,” and "BOYS" are especially hypnotic. Meanwhile try "HEAT" or "BUMP" to keep your sub bass rumbling. It's all the grit and attitude of the industrial style with all the coolness and slick craftsmanship of the conscious style. As a whole, the project is nigh indescribable. I fear leaving out some crucial detail or emotional pitfall that, to me, makes SATURATION as addictive as it is rewarding and enjoyable. It's black and white in full bloom. SATURATION sounds like the soundtrack to a timeless coming-of-age story. It’s personal, quirky, aggressive and dramatic in what feels like such a tiny space. Please do yourself a favor and give this album an honest listen while driving around before sunset.
F#cK ? ? ?
Lil Yachty is straight edge, meaning you can't even blame him for being tweaked out during recording for how irredeemably disappointing this full-length debut is. To many, Yachty's rise to the top been a stalwart reminder to detractors of the latest swings and trends in hip hop that the genre is transforming, whether they like it or not. For me, Yachty's massive commercial success was a satisfying middle finger to purists and fundamentalists who decry mumble rappers as if they were ruining a genre that has already been observed to be far more dynamic and open-minded than its most staunch fans. Yachty was an act that could be appreciated for his positivity, bubbly personality, and sheer irreverence--music worth singing along to just for the fuck of it. But the worst part about Teenage Emotions being a bloated, awkward, twenty-plus track train wreck is that it will just fuel more infighting on countless subreddits, KanyeToThe discussion threads, etc. Mumble rap isn't the problem, it never was. But if Lil Yachty doesn't shape up and produce something reminiscent of the Lil Boat mixtape soon, he'll fade into memory as a mistake instead of a pioneer. On a more positive note, instead try Joey Bada$$ - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ from earlier this year--it's much, much better.